'Midnight Special' film at Berlin takes sci-fi look at parenting

Fri Feb 12, 2016 4:11pm EST
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By Swantje Stein

BERLIN (Reuters) - The director Jeff Nichols has a knack for turning his personal life into cinema, and he's done it again in "Midnight Special," a sci-fi-tinged movie about a boy with extraordinary powers inspired by his own son.

Starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver and Kirsten Dunst, the film was shown on Friday at the Berlin film festival, in competition for the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear.

The protagonist is about an eight-year-old boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who has the power to detect encrypted government data transmissions - among other things. He also has eyes that can emit laser-type beams, which makes the government think he may be a secret weapon.

His father Roy (Shannon) and mother Sarah (Dunst) have to take extraordinary steps to keep Alton from being captured by the FBI, or by a religious cult who believe he is the Messiah.

Nichols was widely praised for his 2012 feature film "Mud," about two boys who befriend a drifter who lives on an otherwise deserted Mississippi River island. He has said that film was inspired by his experiences as an adolescent boating on the Mississippi.

His new film had its genesis in an illness suffered by his young son, and the realization of how important parenting was.

"If anything ever happened to him out in the world I would be devastated, and I had no control over that, and this fear kind of overtook me because I realized how delicate this situation was and this relationship was," Nichols told a news conference.

"And I think 'Midnight Special' began as a way for me to process that fear. I think the reason why we love our children so much is because of this fear and I made a film about it."   Continued...

Actors Kirsten Dunst, Joel Egerton, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher and director Jeff Nichols (L-R) arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the movie 'Midnight Special' at the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2016.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch